Top Wineries Green Valley and Russian River Valley
The Russian River Valley and its sub-AVA, the Green Valley, are widely recognized as a premier growing area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Foggy mornings, warm afternoons, and a cool evening breeze from the Pacific Ocean make the ideal climate for these grapes in this area. Although among the Green Valley wineries, you will find Pinot Noir and Chardonnay the focus, the Green Valley wineries produce other fine wines such as Syrah, Zinfandel, and Gewürztraminer.
• Balletto Vineyards – Old family vineyards and winery
• Taft Street Winery – A garage startup winery in 1979, fun
• Merry Edwards – Recently sold to Louis Roederer Champagne
• Dutton Goldfield Winery – Single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
• Marimar Torres – Famed Spanish wine family, makes Pinot and Char
• Lynmar Estate Winery – Single vineyards Pinot and Chardoonay
• Iron Horse Vineyards – Great sparkling wines, great view of the Green Valley
We recommend you visit no more than three wineries in one day. Enjoy the beauty of the Green Valley.
Dining and Lodging Recommendations
If you are traveling from San Francisco, take the Cotati /Sebastopol Exit from Highway 101 and head west on Highway 116 towards Sebastopol. Two great places to stop and pick up a picnic lunch are the Whole Foods in downtown Sebastopol and the Fiesta Market further north on Highway 116 at 550 Gravenstein HWY.
The winery is owned and operated by John Balletto and his wife, Terri. John has been farming this land since 1977 when he was a mere 17 years old. Initially, an assortment of vegetables was grown on the farm, but as the area became recognized as a prime growing region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, John and Terri gradually shifted from vegetable growers to grape growers. Today the majority of their grapes are sold off to several wineries. John and Terri are able to select premium parcels of grapes to make the Balletto wines. Case production is currently at 5000 cases per year with plans to expand to as many as 30,000 cases per year. The Pinot Noir and the Rosé of Pinot Noir topped our list of favorite wines at Belletto Vineyards. The Balletto wines are excellent value wines.
Taft Street Winery
It all began on Taft Street in Oakland in 1979 when two brothers began making wine in their garage in the Rockridge District. Slowly but surely, the annual production increase, and more importantly, so did the quality of the Taft wines. When the garage reached overload, they moved the winery to its present location on Barlow Lane in Sebastopol. The tasting room is quaint. Outside you will find inviting picnic tables and a Bocce Court. We like the low tasting fee and the reasonable prices of the Taft lineup of wines. We very much like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
A legend among women winemakers, Merry Edwards, took Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc to new heights. However, in February of 2019, Merry Edwards announced that she was stepping away from the winery and 45-year career as a winemaker. The winery sold to the famous French Champagne Roederer Family. The Roederer Family pledges to keep the Merry Edwards winery small with the same passion and quality as its founder. If you plan to go to Merry Edwards, make an appointment to be sure you can get in to taste.
Just north of Merry Edwards at the corner of Highway 116 and Graton Road is the Dutton Goldfield tasting room. The focus at Dutton Goldfield is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They produce small case allotments of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from various prime vineyards in Sonoma Country as well as a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their Dutton Ranch property. Dutton Goldfield is a small winery growing quality grapes and making great wines. They are doing this to year after year.
Marimar Torres is on a backroad off Highway 116. It is a beautiful drive and well worth the effort to visit Marimar Torres. The winery is about 2 miles from the two-block long town of Graton, on Graton Road. Marimar entrance is on the right. Take the roadway up to the top of the hill. You might think you landed in Spain’s Catalan. The winery has a Catalan flair. The Marimar Torres family owns the Torres Winery in Spain near Barcelona. As is the case in this wine area, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the focus. Marimar is a lovely spot and a most delightful place to enjoy a picnic lunch with an excellent glass of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.
To get to Lynmar Winery, head back to the town of Graton and then cross Highway 116 to Frei Road and watch for the Lynmar Winery about three-quarters of a mile up the road. In the fall of 2005, Lynmar opened this impressive and beautifully designed hospitality center. Everything about this winery is elegant and first-class. The Lynmar Winery is a popular winery for lovers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The attraction is the single-vineyard Pinots and Chardonnay wines. These are small-lot wines. If you desire to visit Lynmar, it is best to plan in advance. Check the Lynmar Website for tasting options and reservations.
Iron Horse Vineyards
From Lynmar, go back to Highway 116 and turn right and travel two miles. The road to Iron Horse is off the beaten track, but the journey is well worth it. You will find the way to Iron Horse just before you come to the town of Forestville on Highway 116. Watch for Ross Station Road, turning left off 116. Ross Station Road will cross a bridge and then become a narrow road as it winds up the hill to the winery. Along the way, you will view beautiful vineyards and, on top of the hill, a spectacular view of the Green Valley. Iron Horse produces several different lines of sparkling wine, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir from their estate vineyards in the Green Valley AVA. They also provide other varietals from their estate vineyards in the Alexander Valley, located approximately 15 miles northeast in a much hotter climate. In addition to tasting, Iron Horse offers tours of the vineyards and cellars. Check the Website for complete information.
Additional wine routes in the Healdsburg wine region of Sonoma
- Westside Road Wine Trail
- Old Redwood Highway Wine Trail
- Alexander Valley Wine Trail
- Geyserville Wine Trial
- Olivet Road Wine Trail
- Dry Creek Valley Wine Trail
Tips for your Healdsburg Wine Tour
- You are encouraged to have a designated driver. Consider hiring a limousine or van service.
- First time to a winery in Healdsburg? Find out what happens in a typical tasting room.
- Are you wondering about how to taste wine? Wine Tasting Techniques
- If you cannot picnic, enjoy a delicious lunch at one of Healdsburg’s many fine restaurants.
- Find lodging in and around Healdsburg
- Pace yourself and make a day of wine tasting. Don’t forget to take photos of your wine country getaway.
- Visiting three wineries in one day is enough to you keep you busy and content with the slow and easy pace of wine country.
- Please read our Disclaimer Document on the information contained on Wine Country Getaways.